On June 19, the Maine Bureau of General Services announced it had selected Maine Natural Gas to supply natural gas to Augusta and the Kennebec Valley region.

The bureau made the award to Maine Natural Gas after conducting a fair, open and competitive bidding process. Maine Natural Gas has obtained the necessary permits and permissions from state departments and regulators and is eager to begin construction.

A losing bidder, Summit Natural Gas, based in Colorado, however, has appealed the bid award, impeding the process of creating jobs and bringing natural gas and millions of dollars of savings to the businesses and residents of the greater Augusta area and the Kennebec Valley.

The Bureau of General Services issued the initial request for bids in January, yet, six months later, Summit continues to create delays.

Summit also is trying to inject politics into the bid process by contacting politicians and encouraging them and others to interfere with the contract award to Maine Natural Gas.

Every day of delay caused by Summit is another day that the residents and businesses in the Augusta area and the state of Maine pay higher-than-necessary energy costs.

Maine Natural Gas continues to move aggressively with this project: The engineering is done, the routes are set and the company has the necessary permits and has large customers lined up. Maine Natural Gas is committed to completing this project and is ready to get pipe in the ground quickly.

Summit claims that it can begin serving customers this year, even though it has no authority to serve anyone in Maine, has no approved rates, and hasn’t even received approval to take over the conditional authority granted to Kennebec Valley Gas. To our knowledge, it has no permits, no rights-of-way and no large customers under contract.

Summit also claims that it has plans to spend $150 million on a pipeline to Madison, and that Maine Natural Gas has plans to serve only Augusta. This claim is untrue. Maine Natural Gas’s response to the state’s request for proposal included plans to expand service in the Kennebec Valley north and south of the Augusta area — our system is designed for it.

Maine Natural Gas plans to seek customers aggressively to support these expansions in a manner designed to keep rates as low as possible and to serve those customers willing to invest in switching their energy needs to natural gas.

Building pipelines with too few customers to support the investment can result in high prices and cost subsidies from existing customers. And unlike Summit, Maine Natural Gas has its financing in place and has no plans to ask towns for tax breaks or seek loans from the state.

It ís clear that the state made the right choice in awarding this contract to Maine Natural Gas. It’s time for Summit to step aside and allow the contract to be signed so Maine Natural Gas can begin laying pipe.

If Summit is eager to serve other Kennebec Valley areas, it should complete the necessary regulatory process to become a Maine gas utility, get permission to purchase Kennebec Valley Gas, gain authority to serve the areas it wants to serve, secure rights-of-way, apply for necessary permits and obtain financial commitments from anchor customers.

Maine Natural Gas already has completed these steps, which is why our company is ready, willing and able to begin laying pipe as soon as Summit’s delaying tactics are ended.

The people of Augusta shouldn’t trade a proven Maine company that has served this state for years for a newcomer with no Maine track record, simply on the basis of promises it has no authority to keep.

Darrel Quimby is vice president of Maine Natural Gas is a regulated gas distribution company serving nearly 3,000 customers in the several midcoastal communities.

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